Xingyi Incense

For me, making incense is a form of Zen practice in my life. If one day I truly realize my enlightenment, I may never make incense again. In my previous article - Inhale As If Smelling Incense, I briefly described the history of Xingyi Quan (形意拳). Thousands of years ago, people started imitating the movements of animals and gradually developed the Xingyi Quan that combines fighting and self-enlightenment.

According to the core theories of Xingyi Quan, everything in the world, including humans, consists of two parts: visible (Xing, 形) and invisible (Yi,意 ). When we are infants, these two parts are in a completely unified and harmonious state. However, as we grow up, the connection with the Heaven and Earth has been lost, and these two parts begin to separate, then the vitality of the body starts to continuously drain away. For Xingyi Quan, the ultimate goal is to re-establish the connection between human and the Heaven and Earth again. The main practice method is Zhanzhuang (stand meditation, 站樁) for four to eight hours a day, and the persistent practice of this method for years to open all the channels in the body, and the status of Xing, Yi and the Heaven and Earth will be integrated into united one again as we were infant, reaching a state of limitless harmony (Wuji, 無極) which is also an endless source of vitality.

After practiced Xingyi Quan and Zhanzhuang for eight years, a few months ago, I participated in a 7-day Zhanzhuang retreat organized by my Master Yu Hongkun (於鴻坤)  at Beijing. After practicing Zhanzhuang for more than eight hours a day for seven consecutive days, I felt at a certain moment that my body seemed to be swimming in the air, as the air around me turned into a tangible substance like water, and I could touch and push it with hands. My Xing, Yi and the surrounding environment seem to be integrated into an unimaginable united form. When I swing my hand, I can clearly feel my Xing, Yi, and the surrounding air merging into one movement, if I were to throw a punch at that moment, it wouldn't be just my own strength, but a punch together with the force of the Heaven and Earth, then I suddenly understood the core of Xingyi Quan.

From that moment, I realized that the incense sticks and the attars I am making, are similar as Xingyi Quan. The raw materials used for incense sticks are all in solid form, as the Xing or the Earth part of universe, we can call it Yin (陰) of Taiji (太極). On the other hand, the essential oils I blended are all in flowing liquid form. When they evaporate, they turn into invisible Qi, as the Yi or the Heaven part of universe, which we call Yang (陽)  of Taiji.

When they are separated, the force is not so strong. However, similar as Xingyi Quan I realised, once they regroup and merge in various parts of the body, starting from the hands, head, body, waist, legs and feet, all become a united one, then it will release the huge energy and endless life force of the universe they carry. As mentioned in the Xunzi (荀子), 天地合而萬物生, tens of thousands of living things are born from the meeting of Heaven and Earth.

From this moment, I found that both the solid and liquid fragrances are originally the same, they all carry the information and life force of the universe, just waiting for us to merge them back together according to the rules of Heaven and Earth. Based on this philosophy, I began to develop a new series of sticks - Xingyi incense, let the solid spices and liquid essential oils meet in every note and keep them moving together throughout the entire performance, allowing them to release the original force of the Heaven and Earth. At this point, it is no longer just a simple fragrance, but an elixir of immortality that restores vitality to our bodies.




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